Browning, Elizabeth

BORN 6 Mar 1806, Coxhoe, Durham: Carlton Hall - DIED 29 Jun 1861, Firenze, Toscana: Casa Guidi
BIRTH NAME Barrett, Elizabeth
CAUSE OF DEATH burst abcess in the trachea
GRAVE LOCATION Firenze, Toscana: Cimitero Degli Inglesi, Piazzale Donatello, 38

Elizabeth Browning was born as Elizabeth Barret. Her father was Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett and her mother Mary Graham Clarke. She was the eldest of twelve children. When she was five the family moved to Hope End, an estate near Malvern Hills in Ledbury, Herefordshire. She was educated at home and as a child she read Milton and Shakespeare.

She started writing poems before she was ten and her father published her long poem "The Battle of Marathon" in 1820. In 1821 "Stanzas Excited by Reflections on the Present State of Greece" was published in The New Monthly Magazine. In 1826 "An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems" was published. During the same year she fell ill. The doctors couldn't work out what caused her pain and she took morphine against it.

In 1828 her mother died. They family moved several times and eventually Hope End was sold and they settled at 50 Wimpole Street in London. There her cousin John Kenyon introduced her to people like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson and Carlisle. She became friends with Mary Russell Mitford.

In 1838 "The Seraphim and Other Poems" was published. During the same year she moved to Torquay, Devonshire to improve her health. But during a visit in 1840 her brother Edward drowned there and she returned to Wimpole Street. Her health had detoriated and she spent most of her time in her room upstairs. After her volume "Poems" was published in 1844 she became one of the best known poets of England. The author Robert Brown wrote an admiring letter and visited her in 1845.

Elizabeth, still an invalid, could hardly believe her eyes when the six years younger Brown secretly started courting her. In 1846 he married her secretly at St. Marylebone Parish Church and afterwards ran off with her to Italy, following the example of his idol Percy Bysshe Shelley. In 1847 they rented an apartment in the Casa Guidi, where she lived for the rest of her life.

Her father disinherited her, but she had some money of her own and she got on well with her new husband. In 1849, aged 43, she gave birth to a son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning. After Wordsworth died in 1850 she was mentioned as the possible new Poet Laureate, but Tennyson got the position. In 1856 her verse novel "Aurora Leigh" was published.

After her health worsened she moved from Florence to Sienna, where she lived at the Villa Alberti. The news that her sister Henriette had died depressed her and she died at home in 1861. She was mourned in the neighbourhood and buried at the Cimitero Degli Inglesi in Florence. The nature of her illness was never discovered, but pulmonary problems in combination with her opium addiction may have led to her death.

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The grave of Elizabeth Browning at the Cimitero Degli Inglesi, Firenze.
Picture by Androom (03 Feb 2011)


The Casa Gidi in Florence where Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived and died.
Picture by Androom (07 Feb 2011)


The Casa Gidi in Florence where Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived and died.
Picture by Androom (07 Feb 2011)


Plaque for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning at Bagni di Lucca.
Picture by Androom (18 Feb 2018)


• Jones, Kathleen, Learning not to be first, the Life of Christina Rossetti, The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire, 1991
Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Wikipedia

Bruck, Karl Ludwig, Freiherr von

Published: 15 Mar 2011
Last update: 08 Mar 2022